Q & A: Storing Canna and Elephant Ears

I bought some cannas with variegated foliage last spring and enjoyed them all summer. I know I must dig them up before cold weather sets in. How should I store them over the winter? I also have some elephant ears I want to save. —BB, southern Ohio

Elephant ears (Caladium) are very intolerant of cold earth and will begin to show signs of decline as the soil cools. When they begin producing leaves that are small and pale you should gently dig them up, being careful not to damage the tubers. Spread the plants on paper in a well-ventilated indoor area to dry for a week or two. Then remove the foliage, pack the roots in sphagnum moss, sawdust or vermiculite, and keep them in a location that will not drop below 50°F, such as an unheated basement or storage room.

Cannas are not as tender as caladiums. They can be left in the ground until a frost or two has blackened their foliage, but be sure to dig them before the soil freezes. Then treat and store them by the same method as for elephant ears.

If the cannas have been grown in a container it may be easier to simply move the entire pot into a cool location after you have cut the tops back. Cease watering and wait until spring to clean and divide the rhizomes and replant them.

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